In recent days, municipalities in our region and around the country have been parsing President Trump’s new immigration and refugee policies. Now, a New York assemblyman from the Hudson Valley has written to the governor, opposing the use of state tax dollars to pay for sanctuary cities to litigate against the federal government or to replace withheld federal funding. He also is calling on area polling institutes to ask New Yorkers whether they support sanctuary cities.
Republican East Fishkill Assemblyman Kieran Lalor’s February 1 letter to Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo asks him to articulate the state’s policy to address possible funding shortfalls should sanctuary cities like Syracuse be denied federal funding. President Donald Trump signed an executive order January 25 directing his administration to withhold funding from sanctuary jurisdictions that protect illegal immigrants. Here’s Lalor.
“From what I’ve read, it looks like the state government might step in there and fill the gap, and what I’m saying is, hey, I represent non-sanctuary cities. I represent towns that obey state and federal law,” Lalor says. “Why are you going to take money from the state coffers, which all 135,000 of my constituents pay into, and give it to a town or a city that is disobeying federal law?”
In his letter, Lalor asks the state plan for when sanctuary cities do not follow the law. A Cuomo spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, in response to Trump’s executive order, says the president lacks the constitutional authority to cut off funding to states and cities simply because they have lawfully acted to protect immigrant families. He says local governments seeking to protect their immigrant communities from federal overreach have every right to do so. Schneiderman also issued legal guidance for sanctuary jurisdications. New York City Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio has threatened to sue over Trump’s order. Lalor says if threats to sue materialize, he does not want taxpayers left with the bill.
“So legal bills can go up quickly. Let’s focus on filling the potholes and running our cities and not litigating against the federal government,” Lalor says. “And the other thing is, which we’ve heard talk of, is SUNY making their campuses sanctuary campuses, and my proposal is basically the same thing. Don’t use tuition-payer money to litigate this or to cover the expense of being a sanctuary campus.”
A SUNY spokeswoman did not return a request for comment. In November, after the presidential election, Cuomo was at a Harlem church and announced actions to combat hate crimes and protect civil rights.
“New York will also ensure that every person has legal protections whether they can afford it or not,” Cuomo says. “And we will be putting together a public-private legal defense fund to provide immigrants who can’t afford their own defense the legal assistance they need because in New York we believe in justice for all.”
Lalor, who is drafting legislation spelling out a ban on providing state tax dollars to help sanctuary cities, also sent letters to three regional polling institutes, requesting that they poll New Yorkers on their feelings about sanctuary cities.
“It’s a top issue right now in the country and in the state. All the levels of government are grappling with it in some way,” says Lalor. “And it would be interesting and informative and constructive for New Yorkers and New York policymakers to know how the state residents feel about this. And that California was 74 percent against surprised me, and I wonder if New York has similar results.”
A recent poll from UC Berkeley showed 74 percent of Californians want sanctuary cities ended. Lalor’s letter was sent to the directors of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, Quinnipiac University Poll and Siena College Research Institute. Marist had no plans to poll the issue and it was unclear whether that would change. Dr. Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute, says he has not yet received the letter but would consider polling the issue next month, understanding its importance to New Yorkers. A Quinnipiac official did not respond in time for this broadcast.